Ronna Jacobson, left, with her Little Library crafted by Haven Middle School’s Lee Kulman

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Two little houses with one big mission have recently appeared in Northwest Evanston. The houses, doll-house sized structures, each contain a Little Free Library, with free books available for the taking. People can replenish the libraries by placing other books inside.

The non-profit organization’s mission is to promote literacy and the love of reading by building free book exchanges worldwide. The first Little Free Library was built by a Wisconsin family in 2009. Since then the movement has grown rapidly to an estimated 15,000 libraries worldwide.

The first Little Free Library in Evanston appeared last October. Homeowner Peggy
Morrall read about the movement online. “I saw it on a site devoted to homes and gardens and I thought, ‘I gotta do this,’” she said.

She turned to a neighbor, Jerry Orf, a businessman and amateur carpenter, and he built the Little Free Library based on design specifications posted on the organization’s website,

“I see people come by with their grandkids all the time. It’s great,” said Ms. Morrall.

More recently a second Little Free Library has popped up not far from the first. This one is devoted exclusively to kids’ books. Ronna Jacobson, coordinator of the pedi-atric literacy program at the Glenbrook Family Care Center, said she had read about the Little Libraries last year. She sketched a simple design and asked Lee Kulman, industrial arts teacher at Haven Middle School, to build it. He completed the house in May, and it took up residence on her front lawn in mid-June. Since then scores of children and parents have stopped by to look inside and exchange books, she said.

“It’s a great way to get children to read, especially during the summer when so much learning can be lost,” she said. “I’m thrilled the house and library have generated so much interest and response. Encouraging reading is one of the greatest gifts we can give children.”

Les Jacobson

Les is a longtime Evanstonian and RoundTable writer and editor. He won a Chicago Newspaper Guild best feature story award in 1975 for a story on elderly suicide and most recently three consecutive Northern...